How we perceive anothers moral character can influence the nature of our economic decisions and the neural mechanisms underlying these choices, according to a new study by researchers at New York and Cornell universities. The findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, run counter to the assumptions favored by many economists that individuals behave opportunistically.
The studys researchers were Mauricio Delgado, a post-doctoral research fellow at NYU, Robert Frank, an economics professor at Cornells Johnson School of Management, and Elizabeth A. Phelps, a professor of psychology and neural science at NYU.
In conducting the study, researchers examined brain responses while participants performed a "trust game" involving two-person interactions in which mutually beneficial outcomes are more likely if partners are trustworthy and perceive one another as such. Participants could either keep $1 on a given trial or transfer it to a partner, in which case the partner would receive $3. The partner could either keep the entire $3 or share half of it back. It was thus advantageous to transfer money to a partner who was expected to share, but disadvantageous to transfer money to one not expected to share.
James Devitt | EurekAlert!
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